Sleeping Beauty: Maleficent on the Prowl Against Princess Aurora
|"Sleeping Beauty" (1959).|
A neighboring kingdom, ruled by King Hubert (Bill Thompson), has an eligible suitor, Prince Phillip (Bill Shirley). A marriage is arranged to bring the two families together.
|An uninvited guest!|
They are good-natured, though quarrelsome. There is an uninvited Fairy, however, who should have been. She learns of the proceedings and decides to pay a visit anyway. When she shows up, that is when the trouble starts.
|Touch the spindle!|
|A look of consternation on young Prince Phillip's face.|
|Maleficent has an idea, and the bird is anxious to help. This shot gives a good idea of the Super Technirama 70 widescreen effect. "Sleeping Beauty" was filmed in anamorphic widescreen and recorded in 6-channel sound.|
King Stefan (Taylor Holmes), frantic to save Aurora even though she must leave him forever in order to survive, orders all the spinning wheels in the land destroyed, and they are - all except one. An evil creature like Maleficent will not be deterred. Maleficent scours the kingdom to find Sleeping Beauty/Aurora/Briar Rose, determined to make her prophecy become reality.
|Maleficent and her ominous bird.|
Prince Phillip battles dragons and witches, he actively courts Aurora in the forest even though he doesn't know her identity, he sings and dances, and generally acts like the first movie super-hero. Comparing this film to "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" of twenty-two years earlier, you appreciate the stylistic changes that Walt Disney probably, in hindsight, wishes that he had incorporated into that earlier film rather than in "Sleeping Beauty."
|Maleficent dominates the palace.|
|Eleanor Audley, acting out her character Maleficent for the animators.|
|What evil lurks behind the spindle.|
Maleficent as voiced by Eleanor Audley, who also did Lady Tremaine in the original "Cinderella," is deliciously evil. Audley was an old hand at creating classic characters in Disney movies, and she knew how far could take her interpretation without going completely overboard. She also was a bit of a character herself, reveling in acting out her character's scenes for the Disney animators so that they could study her facial expressions.
|Eleanor Audley, a lovely eccentric heroine who liked to don her character Maleficent's costume. Her distinctive voice was the outcome of a case of TB in her early 20's, a disease that followed her throughout her life but which she overcame.|
|The three good fairies.|
|Maleficent - as the 2014 Disney film featuring Angelina Jolie shows, she's the real star, full of fury and rage and everything we want to see in a bad girl.|
|Dancing under the rainbow.|
George Bruns scored "Sleeping Beauty" with cutting-edge 6-track stereo which he had to go all the way to Germany to find (the Beatles several years later had to make do for much of their existence with four tracks, and actually began with only two). He was justly rewarded with a well-deserved Oscar nomination. For my money, "Once Upon a Dream" is the best single Disney song of all time, right up there with anything from "Mary Poppins" - and that is saying a lot.
|Aurora - or Briar Rose - like Snow White is a friend to nature.|
|Princess Aurora in her chamber, sleeping the years away.|
|Mary Costa, who voiced Princess Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty."|
A final problem was the rise of Television: Disney had a weekly program on throughout the '50s, and the "common wisdom" was that there was no reason to pay to see something you could see for free on the little box in the living room anyway. The entire film industry quaked in terror, not just the Disney movies studio, leading to the first "3D" craze (sound familiar?). Of course, there was nothing quite like a quality Disney movie such as "Sleeping Beauty" on the tiny black-and-white sets most people were using then, but many people at time followed what seemed like common sense like sheep. A fine example of peer pressure in action, or maybe mass psychosis.
|Maleficent as a Dragon.|
|Aurora, stunningly drawn.|
|The Prince finds his love in front of a looming enemy. Isn't this animation design awesome?|
|True love's kiss is what it takes.|